Avoid Powerpoint for Effective Communication
There are three basic types of live information delivery to a group of people that are in use these days — speeches, slideshows, and white board sessions. They each have their places, and in some cases the size of the group and the information being delivered dictate the format. I love listening to a well delivered speech, and for a small group a white board session is wonderful. As far as slideshows in the form of powerpoint presentations go, however, I hate them in all forms.
A good speech is a joy to behold. With just the power of words, an orator holds an audience spellbound with a well practiced speech. It is on one topic, with perhaps one large and many small stories that illustrate the point of the speech. There is a definite beginning, middle, and end to the speech. At the end most of the audience feel enlightened and uplifted. I love listening to a good speech.
On the other hand, I dread sitting in a chair in training classes, being bored to tears while someone who has who only has a basic level of knowledge about a topic clicks through powerpoint slides one after the other. Unfortunately I get subjected to this on a regular basis because our vendors require certification, which in most cases involves sitting through ten to forty hours of powerpoint slides delivered by certified trainer who does not even have a full grasp of the topic.
Many of these training powerpoints are delivered online, with a soundtrack of a professional reader reading the slides. That is even worse, if not for the one saving grace of this type of delivery, which is the transcript. I can blow through the transcript about five times as fast as listening to the powerpoint presentation, gather the gist of the material, take the test, and move on. Unfortunately some vendors like to show the amount of money they can invest in their online training, and roll videos. As long as there is a transcript to the video, that is acceptable, but when there is not, it is the worst of all possible worlds!
I fully recognize that I am not the ideal type of audience for hours of semi-informative powerpoint presentations. Like many people that are in positions that have minimal sitting-down time, I spend most of my time up and about, doing things. There are many people that work at their desks for most of the day, and have no problem sitting and absorbing information. People that prepare training material need to recognize what the usual working habits and probable attention span of their audience is.
When it is necessary to create a powerpoint presentation for people that are not used to sitting down for very long, they need to be short and to the point. Furthermore, the way to keep the attention of the audience is to use few slides, and turn each slide into a mini-speech, with an interesting story to illustrate the point of the slide.
For small groups, the whiteboard format is more powerful than a powerpoint slideshow in many ways. The audience immediately knows that the discussion is centered around what their needs are, not the prepared message of a powerpoint. Also, the ability to take complex ideas and put them into simple pictures helps to promote understanding. Ideally, the person wielding the whiteboard pen is able to fill the board with a vision of growth and success that everyone in the room can buy into, creating the same type of conclusion to the even that a speech does.
When at all possible avoid delivering long, pre-packaged powerpoint presentations, because your audience will hate you. In a small group, use whiteboarding techniques whenever possible. For a large group, oftentimes a well prepared speech will be most effective. Finally, if you have to use a powerpoint, use as few slides as possible, and create a min-speech complete with story for each of the slides that you show. Your audiences will really appreciate it.
Author: Rolf Versluis
Published at Priority Queue